By Jay Mwamba
After a poor start to the FIFA World Youth Cup in West Africa last Sunday, Ireland’s Under-20 side faces a must-win situation against Group C underdogs Saudi Arabia in Ibadan today in order to stay in contention for the title.
The Irish lads succumbed 1-0 to a 10th minute goal by Mexican skipper Raf’l Marquez at the weekend. Earlier in Ibadan, southwestern Nigeria, Australia had assured themselves of going to the top of Group C with an emphatic 3-1 win over Saudi Arabia.
The Aussies, who meet Mexico today, tallied through Jason Culina (29th), John Maisan (72nd), and an own goal by Al Garni Omar (77th). Mohamed Dabo pulled one back for the Saudis in injury time.
Elsewhere in the 24-nation soccer championship that ends on April 24, hosts Nigeria were held to a 1-all tie in Lagos by Costa Rica in Group A, after Allan Melendez’s late penalty (83rd) canceled out Julius Aghahowa’s go-ahead goal (20th) for Nigeria.
Germany, inspired by Enrico Kern’s hat trick (44th, 60th, 69th), knocked off Paraguay 4-0 to lead Group A. Patrick Falk (91st) was the other German scorer. Nigeria play Germany today, while Costa Rica tackle Paraguay.
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In Group B, defending champions Argentina scrapped past Kazakhstan 1-0 in Kaduna, on Esteban Cambiasso’s 44th minute strike — after Croatia and Ghana had battled to a 1-1 draw with goals by Zvonimir Deranja (22nd) and Peter Ofori-Quaye (68th), respectively.